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Lawmakers propose renaming NASA Ohio facility for Neil Armstrong

September 16, 2019

— The first man on the moon could soon have a second NASA facility renamed in his memory.

Lawmakers have introduced a bill to redesignate NASA's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, for Neil Armstrong, who was the first person to walk on the moon 50 years ago this past July. The legislation, cosponsored by Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), follows similar congressional action taken five years ago that renamed NASA's flight research center in southern California for the late Apollo 11 astronaut.

"This is a fitting tribute, and a way to help ensure that future generations will be inspired by Neil Armstrong's amazing accomplishments in air and in space," said Portman in a statement.

Plum Brook Station, which inherited its name from a World War II ordnance facility that was built near a stream called "Plum Brook," is today run by NASA's John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Plum Brook's space environment simulation facilities include the world's most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber and the only platform capable of supporting full-size upper-stage rockets and engines at high-altitude conditions.

In August, Portman joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on a visit to Plum Brook to view progress on the agency's Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon. NASA has been preparing the Sandusky complex to support pre-flight testing of the Orion spacecraft that will launch on the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission in 2021.

"[Neil Armstrong] was a strong supporter of Plum Brook Station and the important simulations and testing being done there," said Portman.

Armstrong, who died in 2012 at the age of 82, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, about two hours southwest of Sandusky. As a research test pilot, Armstrong's first position with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor to NASA, was at the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. (In 1999, Lewis was renamed the Glenn Research Center after the first American to orbit Earth and four term U.S. Senator representing Ohio.)

"Before Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, he was an up-and-coming test pilot in northeast Ohio at what is now known as the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center. I'm pleased to join Senator Portman in honoring Ohio-native Neil Armstrong by renaming NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky for a man who inspires future Ohioans to continue our state's tradition of breaking barriers in space," said Brown, who now occupies the Glenn's former Senate office in Washington, DC.

Armstrong left Lewis in July 1955 for the High-Speed Flight Station (later Dryden Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he served as a research test pilot until becoming a NASA astronaut in 1962. In 2014, at the direction of Congress, the site was named the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, as it is known today.

That same year, NASA also added Armstrong's name to its spacecraft operations and checkout building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Portman and Brown's bill (S.2472), which was introduced on Thursday (Sept. 12), calls for NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Plum Brook Station, Ohio to be redesignated the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at the Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility.

"Neil was a humble and patriotic Ohioan who believed the honor of serving his country was a reward in and of itself. That's why, when I asked him the year before he passed away whether he wanted me to pursue naming Plum Brook after him, he demurred," said Portman. "I believe it is precisely because of his humility, coupled with his unparalleled accomplishments, that the renaming is appropriate."

"In consultation with his family and NASA, Senator Brown and I are proud to introduce this legislation renaming Plum Brook in his honor," said Portman.


Ohio lawmakers have introduced legislation to redesignate NASA's Plum Brook Station for Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong. (NASA)

NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center in California was renamed for the late Apollo astronauts in 2014. (NASA)

The Space Power Facility at NASA's Plum Brook Station. (NASA)

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